March 24, 2009

"IF I HAD A HAMMER"

 

A Musical Play
Copyright ©

by

Josh Becker

ACT ONE:

Scene One
                                                                                                                       
     “This story takes place over the weekend of February 9-10, 1964.”

     (The stage is bare except for a door, a couple of wooden chairs, and a table with an old, hand-cranked mimeograph machine sitting on it.  MAX, a 21-year old beatnik boy with a goatee and a beret steps through the door and finds the air full of cigarette smoke, which he waves away from his face.           
     Standing at the table and mimeograph machine is LORRAINE DEMPSEY, an attractive, intense, 19-year old girl with a short, boyish haircut, who’s wearing a plaid skirt and a baggy sweater.  As she cranks the mimeograph machine, on each revolution it spits out a yellow flyer.  Lorraine sees Max and blinks, a smoldering cigarette butt dangling from her lips.  Max shakes his head in amazement)

MAX:  Lorraine, you’re still here?  That’s exactly where I left you last night.

                                    (Lorraine squints through the smoke wafting
                                    up into her eyes)

LORRAINE:  I’m ready, Max.  Nothing can stop me now.

MAX:  You need to go to sleep.

                                    (Lorraine cavalierly waves her hand)

 

LORRAINE:  Nah!  I slept all the time when I was young.
                                    (points at the stack of yellow flyers)
                       I’ve made 500 flyers, you think that’s enough?

MAX:  I should think so.

LORRAINE:  And you’ll help me hand them out?

MAX:  That’s why I’m here.

 

LORRAINE:  Good.  Y’know, Max, as I’ve stood here all night cranking this
                       machine, it came to me that we’re standing at a crossroads.

MAX:  A crossroads to what?

LORRAINE:  To a new age.

MAX:  That’s what they were all saying about Kennedy and Camelot and all
             that, but look what happened.

LORRAINE:  It’s bigger than that.

MAX:  Yeah, I think you’ve been up too long.

LORRAINE:  Hopefully, it will be a time when stuff like this . . .
                                                (waves flyers)
                       . . . won’t happen anymore.  I mean, if we don’t do something
                       right away these five boys will spend the rest of their young lives
                       in jail.

MAX:  Hey, you don’t have to convince me.  But their pre-trial hearing is
            Monday.  If they go in there with some cracker, redneck, court-appointed
            attorney, they’ll get life for sure.

LORRAINE:  I know!  This could well be their last chance.  That’s why it’s
                       so important and that’s why I’m so nervous.  This is the first
                       important political action that I’ve personally organized.  People
                       just have to show up.

MAX:  I’ll be there.

LORRAINE:  I mean, real people?

 

MAX:  Gosh, thanks a lot. 
                                                (Lorraine smiles)
             Look, it’s an important cause, why wouldn’t they show up?

LORRAINE:  (she thinks)  Um . . . to make me look bad?

MAX: Make you look bad to whom, if I may ask?

LORRAINE:  Myself.

MAX:  Is that what this is all about, Lorraine?  Looking good?

LORRAINE:  No, not at all.  It’s entirely about those five boys and the injustice
                       that’s being done to them.  I mean, if I don’t do something about it
                       why should I expect anyone else to do anything, right?

MAX:  Right. 

LORRAINE:  We all have to draw a line somewhere and say, “If you go beyond
                       that line you have to deal with me, too.”  At least, that’s what I think.

MAX:  Right.  Me, too.  You could always just tackle people out in the street and
            drag ‘em in kicking and screaming.

LORRAINE:  I might yet.

MAX:  I bet you would, too.  But why do you do this, Lorraine, staying up all night,
            burning it at both ends?

LORRAINE:  Someone’s got to, right?

MAX:  Do they?  Why?

LORRAINE:  Because if nobody cares the whole world will go to hell.

MAX:  But, Lorraine, you can’t save the whole world.

LORRAINE:  No, but I can try.  And step one is getting everyone to care about this
                        issue, the Springfield Five.

MAX:  But you can’t actually make anyone else care about something, Lorraine. 
            Not really.

LORRAINE:  Oh, sure you can. These are old, time-worn techniques used by the
                       Wobblies before the war.  But getting to a whole group at once, that’s
                       the trick.  That’s where songs come in.

                                    (Max looks skeptical)

MAX:  Yeah, but even songs won’t make someone care if they don’t.

LORRAINE:  If it’s the right song being sung the right way.

MAX:  I don’t think that’s true.

LORRAINE:  (offhandedly)  Sure it is.  Deep down I honestly think that people really
                       want to do what’s right and actually do care, they just need a little push
                       in the right direction to get them going, and that’s where I come in.

                                    (Lorraine reaches into her sweater pocket, pulls
                                    out a pack of cigarettes, finds it empty and crumples
                                    it)

LORRAINE: Gotta smoke?
                                   
MAX:  No.  You’re an idealist, Lorraine. 

LORRAINE:  I’m more than idealist, Max, I’m an instrument of God.

                                    (Lorraine checks out the overflowing ashtray and
                                    spots a long butt.  She straightens it out and lights
                                    it, then takes a sip of coffee.  She winces and sticks
                                    out her tongue)

LORRAINE:  Blah!  How can coffee get colder than the room it’s in?

MAX:  I don’t know.  You going to the Purple Onion tonight?

LORRAINE:  Oh yeah, sure.  Got to.
                                    (she waves a pile of flyers)     
                        I have to get every single person at the Purple Onion tonight to come
                        to my meeting Sunday.  Those people are what I have to work with;
                        they’re my building materials and this meeting is my testing ground. 
                        If I have to yell and scream, I’ll do it.  If I have to whisper and sing
                        songs, I’ll do that.
                                   
MAX:  And you dig it.

LORRAINE:  Yeah, yeah, that, too.
                                    (snaps her fingers)
                        That reminds me, have you got an extra guitar pick?

MAX:  Not here.  You can always use a dime.

LORRAINE:  They fall in.  That’s OK, I’ll swing by the music store.

                                    (Lorraine sits down and puts on her shoes.  Max checks
                                    out her legs.  Suddenly . . .)

MAX:  Lorraine, you drive me crazy!  Why won’t you go out with me?

LORRAINE:  Look, Max, you’re my friend.  Let’s leave it at that, OK?

MAX:  (frustrated)  But I don’t want to leave it at that.

LORRAINE:  If there was something here, Max, we’d know about            it by now, right?

MAX:  I know about it.

LORRAINE:  (shrugs)  It takes two to tango.

MAX:  But what can I do, Lorraine?

                                    (Lorraine smiles and hands Max a thick pile
                                    of flyers)

LORRAINE:  Here.  Hand these out.  See ya later, alligator.

(Lorraine goes through the door and out of the
office.  Max watches her go, groaning audibly
after she’s left)

                                    (Lorraine exits the office and strides up the
                                    street immediately attempting to hand out
                                    flyers to passing pedestrians)

LORRAINE:  Demand justice now!  Free the Springfield Five!

                                    (One person takes the flyer and reads it as they
                                    walk away, another person immediately discards
                                    it on the ground.  Lorraine goes over and picks
                                    the flyer back up)

LORRAINE:  (to herself)  Slob!

                                                                                                                       
Scene Two
                                               
     (The Buckley House is insinuated by a door to the right, a door to the left (behind which is blacked out), a couch at the center of the stage facing the audience, and a TV with hit’s back to the audience.  We hear the sound of a commercial for Beanie-Copters.
     Sitting on the couch watching TV is DAN BUCKLEY, a 14-year old wearing a baseball uniform. There’s a knock at the  door to the right.  Dan dashes over and opens the door.  Another 14-year old BOY in a baseball uniform comes bursting in talking)

DAN:  Did you see “Twilight Zone” last night?

BOY:  Oh, yeah, it was cool.  Did you see “Alfred Hitchcock”?

DAN:  Oh, yeah, boss.

                                    (Dan and the Boy leaveJust then MR. BUCKLEY
                                    and MRS. BUCKLEY enter the living room.  Mr.
                                    Buckley is wearing a bowling shirt and holds a bowling
                                    ball up in front of his face)
 
MRS. BUCKLEY:  Be careful with that in the house.

MR. BUCKLEY:  Hon, please, I’ve got to get in the proper frame of mind, OK?
                                    (chuckles)
                              Get it, “frame” of mind?  Bowling.  Frame.

MRS. BUCKLEY:  That’s great, dear, you’re another Red Skelton.

MR. BUCKLEY:  (imitates Red Skelton’s lisp)  Good night and God blesh.
                                    (looks around)
                              Where’s Phil?

MRS. BUCKLEY:  (shakes her head)  Still in bed.

                                    (Mr. Buckley looks at his watch and frowns)

MR. BUCKLEY:  It’s after ten, what’s with him?

MRS. BUCKLEY:  You tell me.  Ever since he graduated high school and started
                                 work, he’s changed.  He just doesn’t seem to give a damn about
                                 anything anymore.  I just don’t know what to do with him.

                                    (Mr. Buckley considers this for a moment, then
                                    exits the living room.  He steps up to the door
                                    on the left, tries the doorknob and finds it locked)
                                               
MR. BUCKLEY:  Phil?  You up?

                                    (Phil’s voice comes from the darkness behind
                                    the door)

PHIL:  Yeah.

MR. BUCKLEY:  Aren’t you supposed to be at work?

PHIL:  I got the day off.

MR. BUCKLEY:  How come?

PHIL:  It just happens that way sometimes.

MR. BUCKLEY:  Huh.  Well, why don’t you get out of bed.

PHIL:  Why?  What’s the difference?

                                    (Mrs. Buckley steps up beside her husband)

MR. BUCKLEY:  Because it’s a beautiful day.

PHIL:  It’s a beautiful day here in my bed, too.

MR. BUCKLEY:  I don’t like this behavior, Phil.

PHIL:  Yeah?

MR. BUCKLEY:  Yeah.  So get your ass out of bed!

PHIL:  Yeah, yeah, I will.

MR. BUCKLEY:  Do it soon.

PHIL:  All right.  OK.

MRS. BUCKLEY:  Y’know, Phil, if you waste this day, you’ll never get it back.

PHIL:  Yeah?  Big deal.

MRS. BUCKLEY:  (to her husband)  You see?

MR. BUCKLEY:  Yeah, I see.

MRS. BUCKLEY:  What can we do?

MR. BUCKLEY:  How the hell am I supposed to know?
                                    (he kisses his wife)
                               I gotta go.  See ya.          

MRS. BUCKLEY:  Bye.

 

Scene Three

     (Mr. and Mrs. Buckley exit stage left.  The lights come up on Phil’s bedroom, where there is a bed, a guitar, and a dresser with a mirror where an old stereo reposes.
 PHIL BUCKLEY, a tall, handsome, eighteen-year old boy with a crewcut, lies in bed in his boxer shorts smoking a cigarette.  Phil wears a can opener on a shoelace around his neck. The ashtray beside his bed is overflowing with smashed butts.  Phil smokes languidly, the smoke drifting up from his nose.  There are ashes on his chest, but he doesn’t notice. 
     Phil reaches under the bed and comes out with a can of beer.  He opens it with his can opener, guzzles, winces, grins and belches.
     Phil glances over at the wall beside him.  There are many photos of Elvis cut from magazines, as well as pictures of Tuesday Weld, Chuck Berry, Bobby Darin and Mickey Mantle.  Phil suddenly sits up, reaches over and grabs the acoustic guitar that’s leaning against the wall and begins strumming it.
     Phil plays a variety of tunes and rhythms in a half-assed fashion, but nothing sounds very good.  He glances over at a book on the dresser, “Beginning Guitar.”  Phil opens the book and begins to play.  He’s doing OK until he attempts to make a specific chord and, sadly, his fingers don’t want to stretch that way)

PHIL:  Ouch!

                                    (Phil shuts the book.  He walks over to his dresser,
                                    steps in front of the mirror, crosses his arms, lowers
                                    his chin and proceeds to do a poor Ed Sullivan
                                    imitation) 

PHIL:  Tonight we have a really big shew.  I mean, a really, really big shew.  Let’s
            all give a very warm welcome to the talented, amazing, one-of-a-kind Phil
            Buckley! 
                                    (he imitates the fans cheering; smiling humbly
                                    he picks up his guitar and imitates Elvis)                     

            Thank you.  Thank you very much.  I’d like to play my newest song
            which has been number-one on the hit parade for over three months . . . 

                                    (Phil sits down on the bed, strums his guitar, but
                                    still isn’t getting the sound he wants.  He thinks
                                    for a second, then puts down the guitar and digs
                                    through one of the dresser drawers.  He comes up
                                    with a cheap old microphone.  Phil takes the
                                    mike over to his record player and connects
                                    it to the back of the amplifier.  Suddenly,
                                    feedback fills the room.  Phil’s eyes light up)

PHIL:  Boss!

                                    (He moves the mike away from the amp, then
                                    blows into it and hears his amplified breath
                                    through his speakers.  Phil takes the microphone
                                    and shoves it into the hole of   his guitar and presto! 
                                    It’s electric!  Now he really starts to rock and it’s
                                    immediately clear that Phil is not particularly
                                    talented, simply enthusiastic.  He does the Chuck
                                    Berry duck-walk across his room, guitar wailing. 
                                    Phil’s a rock & roll maniac playing to thousands
                                    of adoring fans and everything’s terrific until –
                                    sproing! – one of his guitar strings breaks.  Phil
                                    frowns, setting down his guitar.  He scrutinizes the
                                    change on his dresser)
A dollar-three.
                                    Phil is finally motivated to actually do something. 
                                    He puts his guitar in it’s battered old case and
                                    begins putting on his clothes)

 

Scene Four

     (This is the all-purpose variety of music store that sells most every sort of instrument and all the accessories. Lorraine stands before a large variety of guitar picks holding her guitar and deliberates.  She chooses a pick, checks its thickness, then drops it back in its bin.  Finally, Lorraine makes her decision, chooses a pick, then steps over to the counter and pays the portly, middle-aged CLERK a quarter.
     Lorraine strolls over to the sheet music.  She flips through until she finds something she likes and pulls it out—it’s Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land is Your Land.”  Lorraine plays the first several chords, humming the tune.  Something else catches her attention and she walks to another part of the store, stepping behind a big display case filled with woodwind instruments.
     Just then Phil steps up in front of the woodwind case, then crosses to the acoustic guitar section where Lorraine just stood.  He finds the guitar string he needs and it costs fifty cents, half of his accumulated wealth.  Phil resigns himself to this inevitability and replaces his broken string.  He sees the portly Clerk watching him and smiles at the guy. The Clerk smiles back.
     Lorraine hands a yellow flyer to an OLD AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN, who puts on her glasses and looks at it with interest.
     Now Phil attempts to tune his guitar.  He does a rather half-assed job, shrugs—that’s good enough—then spots the open sheet music in front of him of “This Land is Your Land.”  Phil concentrates deeply, furrowing his brow, and painfully strums and sings the first few chords of the song)

PHIL:  (singing, poorly)  This land is your land
                                         This land is my land
                                         From California
                                         To the New York Island
                                         From the redwood forests
                                         To the Gulf stream waters
                                         This land was made for you and me—

                                    (Lorraine steps up from behind and
                                    proclaims . . .)

LORRAINE:  I love this song!

                                    (Phil turns around and checks Lorraine out. 
                                    He smiles his coolest smile)

PHIL:  Really?  No kidding?  Me, too.         

LORRAINE:  (excited)  Really?  Come on, let’s play it together.

                                    (Lorraine begins playing the song and Phil
                                    very hesitantly follows along, glancing frequently
                                    at the lyrics)

LORRAINE & PHIL:  (singing)   As I went walking
                                                      That ribbon of highway
                                                      I saw above me
                                                      That endless skyway
                                                      I saw below me
                                                      That golden valley
                                                      This land was made for you and me

                                                      This land is your land
                                                      This land is my land
                                                      From California
                                                      To the New York Island
                                                      From the redwood forests
                                                      To the Gulf stream waters
                                                      This land was made for you and me

                                                       I roamed and rambled
                                                       And I followed my footsteps
                                                       To the sparkling sands
                                                       Of her diamond deserts
                                                       While all around me
                                                       A voice was sounding, sayin’,
                                                       This land was made for you and me

                                                       The sun came shining
                                                       And I was strolling
                                                       And the wheat fields waving
                                                       And the dust clouds rolling
                                                       As the fog was lifting
                                                       A voice was chanting
                                                       This land was made for you and me

                                    (Suddenly, everybody in the store, including the old
                                    woman, the clerk, and two other customers, all join
                                    in for the finale)

EVERYBODY:  This land is your land
                            This land is my land
                            From California
                            To the New York Island
                            From the redwood forests
                            To the Gulf stream waters
                            This land was made for you and me
                            This land was made for you and me

                                    (Everybody laughs and claps, then returns to
                                    their business.  Lorraine turns to Phil)
                                   
LORRAINE:  Wow!  Did you see the way the music draws people in?  It’s fantastic.
 
PHIL:  Yeah, it sure is.  So, you like music, eh?

LORRAINE:  Yes, very much.  Do you?

PHIL:  Oh, yeah.  Uh, my name’s Phil, what’s yours?

LORRAINE:  Lorraine.
                                    (he puts out his hand to shake and she hands
                                    him a yellow flyer)
                       There’s a really important meeting tomorrow night for the
                       Springfield Five. 

                                    (Phil takes the flyer looking confused)

PHIL:  Is that a new band?

LORRAINE:  No!  Don’t you read the newspaper?

PHIL:  Sure, but I must’ve missed it.

LORRAINE:  It’s been the headline for the last week.

PHIL:  The neighbor’s dog grabs our paper all the time and chews it up.  What’s going on?

LORRAINE:  The Springfield Five are five colored boys who were arrested for no good
                       reason as they were driving down south to a civil rights rally.  We’re trying
                       to get them out of jail.

PHIL:  Oh.  OK.  Tomorrow night, huh?

LORRAINE:  At 8:00.

PHIL:  (frowns)  But tomorrow’s Sunday, y’know.

LORRAINE:  Yeah?  So?

PHIL:  So, Ed Sullivan’s on Sunday at eight. 

                                    (Lorraine grimaces with disdain)

LORRAINE:  Oh, that’s too bad.  I’m talking about real problems in the real world here.

PHIL:  I know, I’m just telling you that that’s not a good time for a meeting.

                                    (Lorraine looks stricken)

LORRAINE:  You think?  I printed 500 flyers.

PHIL:  (shrugs)  It may not mean anything, y’know, maybe he hasn’t got anyone
            good on the show this week.
                                                           
                                    (Lorraine suddenly looks like she’s got a
                                    headache.  She reaches into her sweater
                                    pocket and finds it empty)

LORRAINE:  Have you got a cigarette?

PHIL:  Sure.  Wanna get a cup of coffee to go with it?

                                    (Lorraine looks him up and down)

LORRAINE:  (grins)  OK.  Caffeine and nicotine are my favorite food groups.

PHIL:  Don’t forget beer, it’s just like liquid bread.

                                    (Lorraine laughs and she and Phil exit. 
                                    The stage goes black)
                                                           

Scene Five

     (The lights come up on Phil and Lorraine sitting at a table in a coffee house.  There are a two or three other tables with coffee-drinking patrons sitting at them.  Lorraine and Phil both drink mugs of coffee and smoke cigarettes)

 


LORRAINE:  Well, I worked for a while at a crisis phone line, but I got really tired
                       sitting up all night listening to drug addicts moan about not scoring
                       and pretending to be a marriage counselor.  I didn’t really feel like I
                       was really part of the fight.     
                                   
PHIL:  (Phil nods, mesmerized)  Right.

                                    (Lorraine really looks at Phil)

LORRAINE:  Do you know what I mean?

PHIL:  Sure.

LORRAINE:  Really?

PHIL:  (shrugs)  No, not really.

LORRAINE:  Haven’t you ever had a feeling of pure empathy?
                                   
PHIL:  (thinks, then shakes his head)  I’m not sure.  What’s empathy?

LORRAINE:  It’s like sympathy, only you don’t feel bad for someone, you feel
                       bad with them.
                                    (Phil digests this)
                       Haven’t you ever felt that way?

PHIL:  Oh, yeah.  “Lassie” does that to me almost every week.

LORRAINE:  (shakes her head)  TV again!  Jesus!

PHIL:  You don’t like TV?

LORRAINE:  No, I don’t.  I think it makes people apathetic.

PHIL:  It’s just entertainment.

LORRAINE:  And some entertainment has value.  But mindless entertainment is useless. 
                       So, what are some of your interests? 

PHIL:  (shrugs)  Me?  Oh, well, I have a wide range of interests. 

LORRAINE:  (nods)              Really?  Like what? 

                                    (Phil suddenly feels cornered)

PHIL:  Well, like everything.

LORRAINE:  (skeptical)  Everything, huh?  Interested in paleontology?

PHIL:  Do you know very much about paleontology?

LORRAINE:  (smiles)  No.

PHIL:  (grins)  It turns out I’m the foremost authority.

LORRAINE:  OK.  So, what’s your favorite subject?

PHIL:  You mean like in school?

LORRAINE:  No, I mean like in life.

PHIL:  Oh, that.  Well . . . uh . . . music, I guess.

LORRAINE:  You sure don’t sound convinced.

PHIL:  No, I am.  Music.  Definitely.  I wanna be a musician.

LORRAINE:  (surprised)  Really?

PHIL:  Yeah.

LORRAINE:  You know, it’s really hard to be a musician.              I take guitar lessons twice a
                       week and that’s not nearly enough.

PHIL:  (skeptical)  Well . . .  It all depends on what you’re after, right?

LORRAINE:  (confused)  What do you mean?

PHIL:  Well, that’s if you want to be, say, a good or            great musician.

LORRAINE:  (nods)              Right.

PHIL:  Well, Bobby Darin doesn’t really have a great voice, but he’s a very successful
            singer.  Or what about Bob Dylan?  He can’t sing at all.

LORRAINE:  Yeah, but he’s a great song writer.

                                    (Phil waves his hand in total deprecation)

PHIL:  You can hire guys to do that.

LORRAINE:  Yeah, so . . . ?
 
PHIL:  So, you don’t necessarily have to be good to             be famous.  Look at Dean Martin.

                                    (Lorraine consider this for a second, then
                                    dismisses the whole thing)

LORRAINE:  That’s silly.  Of course you do.  What are you talking about?  If it’s not their                                  musical ability then it’s their presentation.  It’s gotta be something.
                                    (Phil nods, good point; Lorraine remembers)
                       Oh, y’know, tonight’s Hootenanny night at the Purple Onion, you have to come.

PHIL:  (confusedHootenanny?   Is that like when you square-dance and stuff?  

LORRAINE:  (laughsNo.  Hootenanny night means that it’s open   microphone for anyone
                                      who wants to get up and sing or play or read a poem or do anything. 

PHIL:  (nods)  Will you be there?

LORRAINE:  (smiles and nods)  Yes, I will.  I’m going to sing a song tonight.  You really
                       should come, I mean, if you actually   want to be a musician and all.

PHIL:  Right.  I do.  And I will. 

                                    (Lorraine suddenly stands)
                                                           
LORRAINE:  I’ve gotta go.  So, will I see you tonight at the Purple Onion? 

PHIL:  Sure.  Absolutely.

LORRAINE:  (smiles)  Great.  Will you sing a song?

PHIL:  (shrugs)  Do I have to?

LORRAINE:  No, you don’t have to do anything you don’t            want to do.  None of these
                       people are professionals, it’s just a hootenanny.  But let’s face it, Phil, if
                       you can’t sing at a hootenanny you’ll never be famous as a musician.

PHIL:  (nods)  Right.

LORRAINE:  (smiles)  OK.  See ya there if you’re there.

PHIL:  I’ll be there.  Nice meeting you.

LORRAINE:  You, too.

                                    (Lorraine departs.  The Waitress steps up and
                                    hands Phil the bill)

PHIL:  (reads the bill)  Forty-five cents, eh?
                                    (he counts the coins in his hand, gives
                                    them all to her and smiles smoothly)
            There’s forty-nine cents, honey.  Keep the change.

 

 

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